However, on Saturday, I found myself toeing the line of the AJ Arnett 5K Honor Run without a goal and no hope for points. I didn't snag an early registration deal nor did I have some kind of comped entry. My decision, which was last-minute (as in last day I could register online), was made in large part because my friends were doing it and I hadn't seen most of my weekend gals since mid April.
It didn't hurt, either, that the race's namesake is a fond acquaintance for whom I have a lot of respect and the proceeds went toward Honor Flights. (Note: The race raised $10,000, which will pay for 25 vets to go to Washington, D.C.!)
As the 5K was neither a goal race nor a points race, there should have been no pressure to throw down a fast time. Factoring in that I hadn't ran but once the week before because I was sick and hadn't run fast since Carmel, the idea of a fast race wasn't even that plausible.
However, as I walked around the staging area, I knew that I didn't have it in me to just run a casual 5K in my old neighborhood when, in theory, I could do that any day. I decided, then, the race would serve as a fitness test to see where I was and where I needed to go as I looked to break 25 minutes in the 5K this year.
The race began with the ceremoniously firing of a cannon and I took note, shooting off as well. Read: I ran like a bat out of hell at a pace that I had no business running. By the half-mile mark, that number on the Garmin took a nose dive because, apparently, I have never ran a race before and had to stop to tie my shoe. Seriously.
The hiccup in the first mile and break in rhythm put the first thought in my head that I could back off and just have fun. As I pushed ahead, I passed my friend's daughter. T, who is 10, was aiming to set a new PR, which would mean a sub-27 finish. I briefly thought of offering to pace her but I know that she likes to run her own race.
And good thing I didn't because that fast little thing ran a 25 and change. I have a feeling that this summer she will be pacing me!
I continued on strong until the halfway mark, with T apparently hot on my tail. When I got to about 1.5-1.6, I was sort of over the race. I started backing down. But just as I did, I got some much needed motivation. A runner whom I've seen at other events but don't know cheered me on and told me to hang on. As she passed, she gave me a small pat on the shoulder. It was such a small gesture but meant so much. I also saw a couple of trail runners who seemed to be running a consistent pace. I decided that I'd try to hang as close to them as I could. The distance between them and me fluctuated – sometimes I'd slow and then I'd kick myself in the butt – but I always kept sight.
We made a left turn onto the final stretch and as I came closer, I saw that the clock still said 24:XX. TWENTY-FRICKING-FOUR. I dug deep and hauled butt, crossing the line in 24:50 (chip time 24:47).
I was floored. Not only did I break my PR of 25:10 (set in February at the Cupid Chase) but I reached my end-of-summer 5K goal.
Now, I still plan to do some 5K specific training as I wait for Monumental Marathon training to start and who knows ... maybe the next goal will be breaking 24:30. I'd also like to run a strong 5K where I don't feel like a complete slug at the end.
Did anyone else race this weekend?